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Nimrod Borenstein World Premiere

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
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Find Him Somewhere Between Handel and Handrix
Nimrod Borenstein World Premiere

st john's smith square
Concert Hall


Until now I had never been to a concert. I enjoy classical music, but I have never been keen on the idea of watching musicians perform. I would much rather sit back on the couch with my eyes closed and listen to it on a CD from the comfort of my own home.

As a result, I have little exposure to orchestral music beyond the the nineteenth century, unless it comes in the form of a movie soundtrack. So when the opportunity came to hear not only a new symphony, but a world premiere, I thought it silly not to take advantage.

After the experience, I must admit I still feel the same way. I would much rather listen to music at home, but I am glad I went, and my personal preference does not alter my view of the performance.

The Handel to Hendrix concert was performed by Camerata Alma Viva, and included five pieces, amongst which was Nimrod Borenstein's world premiere of Symphony for Strings op.68.

The Venue

st john's smith square
St John's Smith Square


The concert was held at St John's Smith Square, a Baroque build designed by Thomas Archer, which is celebrating its three hundredth anniversary this year.

With columns surrounding the main entrance it does hold the qualities of an Ancient Greek Temple. But Archer was not originally inspired by the Greeks, but rather Queen Anne, for when he asked her what she would like St John's to look like, Anne kicked over her footstool and cried 'like that!' Thus, the four towers protruding from the roof are an interpretation of the legs from a footstool.

When we arrived at St John's we were told that visitors on the guest list were to collect their tickets from the box office in the basement. This took us the most architecturally beautiful part of the church. Stunning red brick arches are now the setting for an elegant underground low-lit restaurant and bar, below the vaulted crypt.

st john's smith square
Where does this lead?


To get up to the concert hall from here you must take a spiral stone staircase that looks a bit like an emergency fire exit. The cold grey concrete is quite a contrast to the warm glow of the basement, but does feature a mysterious heavy door which incited my curiosity. Does it lead to the crypt?

st john's smith square, concert hall, organ
Organ at the back of the hall.


They layout of the concert hall was not what I expected. There were balconies held up by columns to reflect the outside of the building, and an organ at the back of the room as is in keeping with a church, but there was no structured seating. I was expecting either the the kind of tiered seating as with a theatre, or long fixed benches as with a church. There was neither. Instead, the long hall was simply filled with placed chairs. These were not the most comfortable things to sit on for two hours.

st john's smith square, concert hall, balconies


When we handed our envelope over, it turned out that only one ticket was inside, despite the invite including a 'plus guest'. Although it meant tramping all the way back downstairs and lining up again, the lady behind reception was very helpful. The 'guest' ticket did not appear to have been allocated, but we were not given any trouble, and was reallocated two seats that actually turned out to be closer to the stage than before.

st john's smith square, concert hall, balconies


Another thing I was rather confused about was their policy on food and drink. Before entering, there is a sign clearly stating that food and drink is not allowed. I was frustrated by this because I was absolutely parched and desperate for a glass of water. During the interval, however, I woman came around asking everyone if they wanted to buy an ice cream. I declined, but asked if I could get some water. She said I could get a drink from the bar downstairs, but would not be able to bring it up. So you are allowed to eat a ridiculously expensive tiny £3 pot of ice cream, but not drink water? If someone can decipher the logic, please let me know.

There are concerts on almost every day and tickets range from £5 - £35.

Camerata Alma Viva

st john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva
Camerata Alma Viva


Founded in Geneva in 2009 Camerata Alma Viva is a orchestra made up of sixteen musicians of nine nationalities. The diversity of its members is also reflected in their clothes. The musicians aren't all wearing the same uniform as mark of solidarity, but each have a distinctive style. Unison shown through their music, not their outfit. Camerata Alma Viva are based in London and one of the very few string orchestra in the UK. Their name means 'The Living Soul', and once you hear them play, you'll understand why.

st john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva


As the clock ticked past seven-thirty, I wondered when someone was going to get up on stage and announce the start of the concert. To my surprise, without introduction, I heard music coming from behind me. It was so clear and reverberated that I thought I was sitting in front of speaker, but when I turned around it was in fact the players, slowly walking down the isle, performing Handel's Passacaglia as they made their way up to the stage. Everything I heard was coming from them. No enhancements from loud speakers. The sound was bouncing off the walls, creating the most incredible acoustics.

St john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva, Charlotte Maclet
Charlotte Maclet


After the suite, the orchestra's director, Charlottle Maclet introduced herself and spoke a little about the piece, which had been arranged by violinist, Eric Mouret. She then recited a poem by Richard Dehmel which inspired Schonberg's Verklärte Nacht. They performed it exceptionally well, creating drama, tension, and the sense of ethereal danger. My only criticism is that it felt ten minutes too long. By that point it became repetitive, and the atmosphere was lost.

st john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva,


The final two pieces were by Reich and Hendrix. These were my favourite of the night. When Charlotte first described Reich's minimalist style as 'rational', I thought that was a bit of abstract nonsense. How can music be either rational or irrational? But once I heard it, I really could not think of any other word to describe it. Reich's Triple Quartet is a staccato, no frills, no flounce piece of music. It felt like the equivalent of being thrown out of a pastoral school and tossed into military school. There was no room for flamboyancy, and everything was very structured, rigorous, and serious.

st john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva,


More impressive still was Eric Mouret's reinterpretation of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze, which I never would have made the connection to unless the title was stated on the programme.

Nimrod Borenstein

st john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva, nimrod borenstein
Nimrod Borenstein


The highlight of the evening was Nimrod Borenstein's world premier of his Symphony for Strings op.68, which was performed after the interval. Borenstein has composed over sixty works, including orchestral pieces and chamber music. His most famous is Shell Adagio, which has been performed over times by sixteen different orchestras.

st john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva, nimrod borenstein


Borenstein likes to work closely with the musicians performing his work, so when Charlotte asked him to create a new piece especially for Camerata Alma Viva he was excited about the prospect of making something exclusively for stringed instruments. Borenstein said compositions specifically for string orchestras died out about two hundred years ago.

st john's smith square, concert hall, camerata alma viva, nimrod borenstein


What he came up with was a very challenging piece of music, divided into three sections. The first section is difficult, the second section is very difficult, and the third section incredibly difficult. Not being a musician or a composer, I can't determine the difficulty between one piece of music, and the other, but Symphony for Strings op.68 definitely had a lot of elements to it. To be honest, I did not find the second two sections all that distinguishable from other pieces of music - although I did enjoy it - but I thought the first section was wonderful and unique. It was almost like a ticking clock that was messing with time, as if it were not a constant, but something that could change in speed, pace, duration, and mood.

Borestein has four more concerts scheduled in London over the next few months, two of which are also world premieres, and a third, which is a UK premiere.



Souvenirs opus 49 for violin and piano
Irmina Trynkos, violin
Venue: Sephardi Centre, Maida Vale, London, UK
Date: 13th November 2014

Cello concerto opus 56b (UK premiere)
Talent Unlimited chamber orchestra
Nimrod Borenstein, conductor
Jonathan Bloxham, cello
Venue: St James Piccadily
Date: 20th November 2014

Suspended opus 69 (world premiere)
4 x 4 Ephemeral Architecture
Venue: Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House, London as part of the London International Mime Festival.
Dates: 13th, 14th & 15th of January 2015

Monologue opus 50 for solo organ (world premiere)
Robin Walker, organ
Venue: St George's Hanover Square, London, UK
Dates: 23rd January, 2015
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*Bryony Harrison was invited as a guest
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Why? Fun for music lovers
When: Borenstein's next concert is on the 13th November
Phone: 44 (0) 20 3290 6155
Where: St John's Smith Square
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